The best PC strategy games draw you in with deep, yet accessible systems, ensuring that your every choice has far-reaching consequences.
Though some strategy games set their sights on consoles, the genre has been at home on PC, where the precise controls offered by the traditional mouse and keyboard allow players to issue orders with speed and alacrity. For this reason, many of the best PC strategy games also have a place on our best PC games list.
The best strategy games come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. From gritty fantasy titles to ambitious sci-fi epics, there are plenty of titles to please gamers of all stripes. These titles offer emergent stories that bubble up from the surface as you manage your empire, squad, or army of choice. The tension and drama at the heart of some of these moments are enough to give even the best RPGs and best story games a run for their money. In our list below, you'll find indie gems and stone-cold classics alike - read on to find out exactly which titles make for the best PC strategy experiences.
Best PC strategy games 2023
Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition
Age of Empires 2 is the grandparent of the RTS, not only calling on you to make tough strategic choices but forcing you to do so at speed. Age of Empires 2 was among the first titles to deliver this experience with the polish and flair for which the genre is known today.
It's impossible to talk about the best PC strategy games without mentioning Age of Empires 2. This classic title first defined our understanding of real-time strategy genre in 1999 and thanks to numerous expansions and a recent remaster, it's better than ever.
Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition allows players to command numerous civilizations as they rise to the top of the Imperial Age, from the clashes of the Scots and English to the Spanish invasion of the Aztec Empire.
It may have fewer quality-of-life options than its modern counterparts, but, if you're looking for one of the definitive RTS experiences, you could do a lot worse than the grandparent of the genre.
Sid Meier's Civilization 6
Civilization 6 allows you to tinker with the past, letting you stick key elements from human history into a blender and encouraging you to happily imbibe what comes out. Combine that with robust, moreish turn-based mechanics, and you've got something special.
The Civilization series ranks highly amongst the best PC strategy games, and Civilization 6 is no exception. Like its predecessors, Civ 6 grounds the stakes and spectacle of its grand strategy in our own reality, ensuring that any who play it instantly have access to the frame of reference.
Over the course of several dozen hours, you'll guide and mold your fledgling civilization, bending the course of history. Why not have the U.S. build the Eiffel Tower or the Incas develop steam power years before the British? With Civilization 6, history is yours to shape. The title is especially strong in multiplayer, too, and well worth playing alongside friends.
Bleak and atmospheric, Frostpunk's main antagonists are the hostile, frozen environment and human frailty. This indie strategy offering will push you to your limit, asking exactly how fare you might go to survive.
Perhaps the best PC strategy game when it comes to a single-player experience, Frostpunk is a brutal title that'll force you to make dozens of difficult choices. The premise is novel, too. Taking place in an alternate version of Victorian England, the world has been gripped by a sudden winter, freezing the land to the core. You are the captain of one of the last holdouts. Gather coal, build infrastructure, and pass laws as you attempt to weather the storm.
You will need to decide who to triage and who to save. Do you tell your people the truth, or is a brutal surveillance state the only way to ensure survival? Not for the faint of heart, Frostpunk will push your strategy skills to the limit as you attempt to save humanity from the great freeze.
Crusader Kings 3
Crusader Kings 3 isn't just a great strategy game, it's also a powerful tool for emergent storytelling, letting you guide your chosen dynasty through chaotic and dramatic life events. Many games claim that every run is different - Crusader Kings 3 delivers on that promise.
Crusader Kings 3 sits comfortably among the best PC strategy games of recent years. In this century-spanning title, you take on the role of a feudal noble during the medieval period. Over the course of your character's lifespan, you'll make countless decisions, ranging from the personal to the political. You'll wind up embroiled in a complex web of politics and social intrigue, underpinned by marriages, vendettas, and raw ambition.
What's more, every game of Crusader Kings 3 is different, a promise delivered by the game's mind-bogglingly broad library of events and happenings, enhanced by constant updates. Crusader Kings 3 isn't just a test of your strategic nous, but also tells an emergent story. Players come away from campaigns full of anecdotes and amusement. Plus, with the game available on Xbox Game Pass, there's never been a better time to join them.
Halo Wars 2
A love letter to the Halo series, Halo Wars 2 skilfully captures the scale and spectacle of the sci-fi universe. The massive human v. alien battles of the setting are brought to life in a clean, well-built experience that doesn't skimp on the strategy.
343 Industries collaborated with genre veterans at Creative Assembly to create Halo Wars 2, a distinctive title that brings more than a little style to our best PC strategy games list. The RTS has you take up arms with the UNSC forces of the Spirit of Fire or the mysterious new Banished, a Brute-led Covenant-like faction.
Though built to be console-friendly, Halo Wars 2 is a blast on PC, offering a campaign that's especially rewarding to fans of the Halo franchise. The title also boasts some incredible music, courtesy of composers Gordy Haab, Brian Lee White, and Brian Trifon. Expect the games' colorful visuals and percussive soundtrack to stay with you long after you step away from your keyboard.
Starcraft 2 reinvented esports when it was released back in 2010. More than that, however, it offered immersive, cinematic story campaigns that immerse you in the game world, providing an unforgettable sci-fi epic.
If Age of Empires 2 started the modern RTS, then it's Starcraft 2 that refined the model to near perfection. This esports giant is perhaps the most renowned title on this best PC strategy games list, and with good reason. The 1v1 skirmish mode alone offers a finely tuned PvP experience that's set the gold standard for RTS titles for years.
On top of all this, Starcraft 2 offers a three-part campaign, full of gorgeous cinematics and more than the occasional difficult choice for players to make. In addition to customizing your units between missions, the immersive campaigns have you take on the role of a faction's leader, deciding how to handle the dangerous situations the galaxy throws at you. Whether you play as the plucky Terrans, the enigmatic Protoss, or the xenomorphic Zerg, there are plenty of memorable moments across Starcraft 2's varied missions.
Stellaris makes the galaxy into your personal playground. Not only can you customize your faction in almost any way you can think of, but the game itself allows you to take that faction in almost any direction as you evolve from a fledgling civilization to a mighty stellar empire.
Stellaris is to galactic conquest what Crusader Kings 3 is to medieval kingdoms. Both are developed by Paradox Interactive, but Stellaris takes a rather broader approach, allowing you to build an interstellar civilization of almost any kind. From starship construction to planetary management, there's a huge amount for you to do in this strategy epic. This breadth comfortably earns Stellaris a place on our best PC strategy games list.
Want to play as a federation of human do-gooders who want to seek out new life and new civilizations? You can. Want to be an alien hive mind hell-bent on devouring all organic life in the galaxy? You can do that, too. Thanks to the wealth of customization options and expansions available, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Total War: Warhammer 3
Total War: Warhammer 3's Mortal Empires mode offers a dizzyingly vast campaign that covers an entire fantasy world. The game's strategy layer gives you the sense of running a fantasy empire, a fantasy that comes to life thanks to the scale of Mortal Empires.
Total War: Warhammer 3 is one of the best PC strategy games when it comes to fantasy. Armies of Elves, demons, ogres, and more clash across the Old World of Games Workshop's classic dark fantasy setting in stunning real-time battles. As you'd hope, each faction behaves very distinctly, the noble knights of Bretonnia's majestic cavalry couldn't be more different from the conniving infiltrators of the rat-like Skaven.
What's more, the game's campaigns have you manage an entire faction, building armies, upgrading cities, and spending resources to best defeat your enemies. Though the basic campaign makes for an engaging story, the recently added Mortal Realms mode allows you to battle across locations from all three games in the series, using any of the trilogy's factions. It's an ambitious game mode that needs to be seen to be believed.
XCOM 2 makes you care about your soldiers by giving them just enough of a personality to make their deaths hurt. As they level up, they'll take on specialized roles and gain their own storied histories as part of the resistance. XCOM 2 isn't just your story, it's theirs.
XCOM 2 is the sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown and offers a major twist: we already lost. Aliens have invaded and humanity has been conquered - a novel premise from one of the best PC strategy games out there. Now, you're not leading Earth's defenses, you're leading its last resistance movement. Take the fight to the alien overlords and discover what they're planning before it's too late.
Within this high-stakes title, you'll take command of the Avenger, an alien supply craft that has been transformed into XCOM's mobile headquarters. From here, you'll be able to enjoy an open-ended experience that lets you take control of your strike team, guide them, and attempt to preserve them through perilous missions as you fight to unravel the alien tyranny.
Best PC strategy games: FAQs
Is Stellaris the best strategy game?
Stellaris is certainly one of the best PC strategy games around, allowing you to fully customize your faction and wider game experience. It's a true sci-fi epic that offers mountains of replay value. However, when it comes to determining the "best" PC strategy game, it's important to account for taste and personal preference.
Despite its strengths, a die-hard fantasy fan may well get more from Total War: Warhammer 3 than the likes of XCOM 2 or Stellaris. In the same way, those who want an experience more grounded in the real world are unlikely to find a better title to suit their tastes than Civilization 6.
Is Civ 6 a good strategy game?
Civilization 6 is absolutely one of the best PC strategy games out there. Full of character and charm, Civilization 6 expertly walks a line between grounded real-world concepts and imaginative alternate-history scenarios.
What's more, the game is extremely well paced and will constantly have you wanting to play out "just one more turn". Whether you're playing diplomatically or going for a more militarily-inclined build, Civilization 6 will keep you invested for the long haul.
How we made our best PC strategy games list
Our best PC strategy games list aims to show off the range of different sub-genres available across the strategy landscape. While ensuring that our list consists of only the most finely polished experiences, we also wanted to ensure that everything from sci-fi to fantasy was represented.
Here at TRG, we've spent thousands of collective hours playing strategy games - an expertise that we're keen to pass on to the consumer. We know what makes a great strategy game, and every title on this list more than fits the bill.
If you're looking for other games to jump into, we've got a list of the best MMOs, alongside the best RPGs. But, if you're specifically on the search for a solo adventure, we've compiled all the best single-player games too.
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.